So you’ve been living in you’re free, hagwon issued apartment for a year, and now you’re ready to take the next step to get your own place in Seoul. Craigslist Korea is great for room shares, but some are targeted at foreigners at inflated prices. And there’s simply not enough listings to accurately reflect prices and availability of housing in Korea. Being a foreigner in Korea is tough! Well, we’ve got 3 easy steps to help you move into a new apartment in Seoul!
Step 1: Find out where in Seoul you want to live
Figure out a good place to live in Korea for you. The number one factor for most people is proximity to work. Taking an hour or more to commute on 2호선 (Seoul’s line number 2) is a pain in the butt. Look for straight shots with no transfers (or even walking distance) to your place of work. Being close to your favorite hang out spots in Seoul is also quite convenient. If you’re a cook, find a place close to one of Korea’s big supermarket chains, like E-mart. Or maybe you just want to live next to your favorite bibimbap restaurant in Myeongdong
Tip 1: Areas near subway transfer points are great because you have two subway lines at your disposal, but many of them can get quite expensive.
Tip 2: Like hanging out in hotspots in Seoul? So does everyone else. The most popular areas to hang are typically the most expensive.
Step 2: Check out how much it costs
Found a good place to live in Korea. Check. Now check if it’s in your price range. The easiest and fastest way to do this is through the internet. Register for Naver’s Peter Pan real estate cafe, the largest real estate “cafe” on Naver. It will allow you to search apartments by area, room, apartment types, and a host of other ways. This will allow you to see if you can afford living next to your favorite club in Hongdae so you can get wasted and walk home!
[Know any other good websites (ways) to reference price ranges? Share in the comments!]
Tip 1: Feel free to call the numbers on the website to setup a viewing, but don’t forget to consider the next step!
Tip 2: See a flyer posted on a garbage can for a cheap one bedroom in Gangnam station? If it’s too good to be true, it probably is. Use your judgment. But it doesn’t hurt to ask!
Tip 3: Generally, college towns (e.g. Hongdae, Geondae) are cheaper but dingier, and residences close to corporation clusters (e.g. Gangnam, Yeouido) are more expensive but nicer.
Tip 4: Some areas lack in types of housing (i.e. areas with high concentrations of families may not have many places for the lone foreigner).
Step 3: Go to as many real estate agents as possible
Now that you have a general idea of where you want to live and what you can afford, get your walking shoes ready! Physically going to all the real estate agents in the area has several benefits:
1. Some landlords deal exclusively with one real estate agency.
2. Internet is great, but not everyone posts their listings on the same sites.
3. You get access to new openings before they hit the internet.
4. Tell them exactly what you want, and they’ll find something for you!
Head into anywhere you see a 부동산 (Real Estate) awning and simply state the price range you’re looking for. A common way to express this is to just say the numbers for key money deposit and monthly rent (1000/50). They also typically want to know your move in date. Other things you can request are: types of housing, furnished housing, more specific areas (right next to work!), parking spots, etc.
Once they know the basic info, they’ll take you to see apartments right away. Don’t forget to ask general moving-in questions like where the supermarkets are or if they allow pets. Also, remember to ask if there are any other fees on top of the rent (i.e. 관리비 – maintenance fees). Decisions are made in a day or two and sometimes even on the same day (impatience reigns in Korea!). Be aware that some agents will put on the full-court press for you to sign right there (they don’t want to lose your business to the competition).
Time to Sign!
Congrats! You’ve found your dream apartment in Korea (or whatever you could afford). Last step is to sign. There is a lot of Korean involved in this entire process, so if you’re Korean is limited, having a Korean-speaking friend may be helpful. But getting your own apartment in Korea is empowering, and if your able to get this task done, cheers to you ex-pat… cheers to you